– Rita Rudner, American comedian
Happy June. Here are several questions and answers about Tennessee’s marriage laws.
Q. How old do you have to be to marry in Tennessee?
If you are 18 or older, you can get a marriage license and marry with no waiting period.
If you are 16 or 17, your parents or guardian must accompany you when you apply for a marriage license. If one parent has primary residential custody, then that parent must bring custody papers to show proof of custody.
There is a three-day waiting period for underage applications, unless waived by a Circuit or Chancery Court or the county mayor or executive. The waiting period is waived if both parents of an underage party join in making the application.
If you are 15 or younger, you cannot get a marriage license unless authorized by a Probate, Juvenile, Circuit or Chancery Court judge, or the county mayor/executive.
Q. Who issues the marriage license?
The county clerk issues marriage licenses, which are valid for 30 days. Licenses cannot be issued if an applicant is “drunk” or “insane” or mentally incapable of making knowing decisions.
Q. Who can perform a marriage ceremony?
By law, the following can “solemnize a marriage:”
• Ordained, regular ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, rabbis, and other spiritual leaders of every religious belief, “having the care of souls,” and who are older than 18;
• current and former county mayors or executives and county commissioners.
• current and former judges and chancellors.
• the governor.
• current and former speakers of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
• the current county clerk.
• the current mayor of any Tennessee municipality.
Note: It is a Class C misdemeanor if the presiding spiritual leader or official fails to return the signed license to the county clerk within three days after the wedding.
James B. “Jim” Hawkins is a Tennessee general practice and public interest law attorney. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention. Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. To suggest future column topics, call 615-452-9200.